The antioxidant effects of vitamin E, generally referred to as tocopherols, is well established. Alpha-tocopherol is the vitamin E form routinely used in clinical intervention trials and dietary supplements because of its well established antioxidant effects. Gamma-tocopherol, on the other hand, is a potent but uncommon supplemental form of vitamin E that contains unique properties.
In addition to antioxidant activity, gamma-tocopherol also has reactive nitrogen scavenging ability and anti-inflammatory effects. When combined with the omega-3 fat DHA, it’s a particularly potent combination for reducing inflammation.
There is synergy between these agents on biological markers of inflammation and oxidative stress due to the protection of DHA from reactive oxygen species-mediated degradation by concurrently administered gamma-tocopherol, affording the DHA greater net anti-inflammatory effect per unit dose administered.
The effects of gamma-tocopherol may go beyond an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory according to results published by Australian researchers. They showed that muscle cells made insulin resistant had greater glucose uptake and improvements in insulin signaling when they were exposed to gamma-tocopherol.
The results show gamma-tocopherol is involved in more efficient disposal of glucose, which is important for athletes to speed glycogen synthesis as well as non-athletes to help better manage blood sugar and insulin levels.
This emerging research indicates gamma-tocopherol represents a more effective form of vitamin E. The purification of gamma-tocopherol from alpha is challenging, but some supplements can contain as much as approximately 70% gamma.
Suggested dosage would be 50-300 mg per day of gamma-tocopherol.
References: Jiang, Q. & Ames, B. N. Gamma-tocopherol, but not alpha-tocopherol, decreases proinflammatory eicosanoids and inflammation damage in rats. Faseb J. (2003); 17:816-822.
Wiser, J., Alexis, N. E., Jiang, Q., Wu, W., Robinette, C., Roubey, R. & Peden, D. B. In vivo gamma-tocopherol supplementation decreases systemic oxidative stress and cytokine responses of human monocytes in normal and asthmatic subjects. Free Radic Biol Med. (2008); 45:40-49.
Himmelfarb, J., Phinney, S., Ikizler, T. A., Kane, J., McMonagle, E. & Miller, G. Gamma-tocopherol and docosahexaenoic acid decrease inflammation in dialysis patients. J Ren Nutr. (2007); 17:296-304.
Singh I, Carey AL, Watson N, Febbraio MA, Hawley JA. Oxidative stress-induced insulin resistance in skeletal muscle cells is ameliorated by gamma-tocopherol treatment. Eur J Nutr. 2008 Sep 18. [Epub ahead of print]